Based on the 2018 experience of our customers and backed up by research, I am predicting six trends in 2019 for project portfolio management teams.
While standardization used to be the focus of enterprise project management, the trend is towards simplifying project management - to empower 'micro teams' in delivery and to enable speed. In 2018, the majority of technology projects were run using an agile methodology, and most organizations are now running a hybrid mix of methods, including agile. Given the broad mix of project types in the enterprise and the levels of uncertainty with new technology – think about piloting artificial intelligence versus constructing a new building– running a mix of methodologies makes sense to meet the demands of a diverse portfolio.
Within this category is the trend towards ‘strategy execution.’ The concept is that in the future, what used to be known as ‘project portfolio management’ will be replaced by a more encompassing and dynamic framework that covers projects, products, operations, assets, releases, transformation initiatives, business strategies, etc. - everything significant that requires strategy and execution. In this new state, there will be less rigor around things like task lists, and more focus on investment levels predicted business outcomes and strategic roadmaps.
#2 Consolidating PMOs
Gartner estimates that 50% of large organizations will consolidate their Business and IT PMOs into EPMOs by 2021. This transition is logical, given the way that digitizing business lines blurs the distinction between business and IT. If transforming projects and operations is happening across the organization, then an EPMO (Enterprise Project Management Office) can be an excellent way to pool human resources and create lines of communication: there are often ‘accidental’ project managers in lines of business that don’t identify as traditional project managers but who excel at executing change. They also benefit from a profound understanding of the business and the customer.
Although the move to EPMO may at first sound like creating a larger administrative process, in practice, it can mean the opposite. It may be used as a strategy for doing more with less and is best set up as federated rather than a heavily centralized organization. It is part of a broader trend in creating more visibility of related work streams across the enterprise and empowering teams that do the work. The smartest move to make if moving to an EPMO model is to have this function most closely aligned with the people setting strategy in the organization – so that the EPMO can help clarify strategy, advise on the implications for the portfolio, and drive how strategies need to be defined for successful execution. For this reason, the office may be renamed in line with its focus (e.g., contains 'Strategy' or 'Product' in its title).
#3 Scaling the Agile Mindset
While some enterprises will continue trying a mix of traditional and progressive methods for projects, a growing number will want to start scaling their use of agile. Techniques such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) will be introduced at the C level, not just as the Enterprise’s view of project management, but as a way of managing everyday activity as well. This has implications for how strategic planning and budgeting is run, with the positive outcome being a more dynamic approach to managing priorities and investments. The same trends allow technology departments to reorganize around products/services or value streams, instead of projects. The benefits of regularly demonstrating tangible progress, dynamic prioritization, and visibility of budgets and resources will help offset executive concerns.
#4 Work Management and PMO Technology
The trend of work management and supporting technologies is part of the simplification trend. Instead of having single PMO systems that encompass project management, the work tools of the future take into account the tools and methodologies that helps project teams and organizations work best. The workplace of the future is about the user-friendly integration of different work tools, including areas such as project management, product lifecycle management, and service management.
The shift is from tools for the experienced project manager to tools for the accidental project manager involved in the execution of transformation projects. The new PMO technology will also create a more visual experience for executives and provide interfaces for the team members responsible for designing business strategies. The ability to look across different systems, map language, and surface helpful data will be highly valued.
#5 New Skills
While project and portfolio management is being replaced by strategy and execution, the future practitioner of managing transformation will be less dependent on methodology rigor and more dependent on soft skills. The successful PMO manager will have the ability to look at the change activity happening across the organization – then proactively reach out and offer help. This help will need to be flexible and focused on removing barriers to speed. The fact that many new business and technology projects have uncertain outcomes means that a variety of dynamic approaches will be needed. The successful practitioner will have a growth mindset to experiment with new methods. Successful PMOs will extend this skill to better coaching and training of executive sponsors of work, who will need help to be effective. In terms of hard skills for a project manager, paramount will be knowing the organization’s customers and the ability to map different technology solutions to various business problems.
#6 Evolution of Program Management
The largest, strategic initiatives in the enterprise will follow the same course as smaller projects and lean towards more dynamic methods. Program management will evolve to the art and science of empowering teams to be creative and move quickly, balanced with strong leadership and communications to keep work streams aligned with the mission. Agile methods plus excellent data and analytics will be essential to create safety guardrails around program activity and the consumption of resources. The best initiatives will embed advanced change management and adoption techniques from the beginning – rather than treat OCM as an afterthought. Aligning teams and stakeholders around purpose will be essential to digital projects that have a broad impact.